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10 battles raging for the hearts and minds of developers

Peter Wayner | Oct. 7, 2014
PHP vs. Node, SQL vs. NoSQL, compiled vs. scripting -- the passionate debates and technical rifts that define programming today.

The old differences still define today's battle lines. PostgreSQL is viewed as being more "reliable" and MySQL as more "speedy," but the distinctions are more ghosts than reality. Old habits die hard, and these two packages may be competing for mind share for another 20 years, with PostgreSQL getting a little wind in its sails of late from hipster hackers and Oracle haters alike.

Apple has always been the lone redoubt for Objective-C, the clean, lean mix of C and object-oriented programming. But times change and now Swift offers a modern syntax free of many of the annoyances that have kept programmers from building code for Apple's platform. Sure, the folks who learned C in the crib don't mind the asterixes and the multiple files, but the newcomers raised on Python, Ruby, and even Java are driven to distraction.

Will Swift's clean structure capture the mind share of Apple developers? Will Python and Ruby developers rush over to iOS and crowd out old-guard Objective-C hackers? Or will the world be dominated by the amazing efficiency of tried-and-true Objective-C programmers? Will the new libraries and features be coded in Swift or Objective-C? Apple has said publicly that both can co-exist. So developers will almost certainly cluster to the familiar. Those who love Python or Java will move toward Swift. Those who grew up with C will stick with Objective-C.

Dev tech battle No. 4: Python vs. Ruby
Long ago, a scripting language was like chewing gum for software. If you needed to glue together big programs, you could write simple code in the OS and be done.

Somewhere along the line, the people who loved these little languages started building big programs that proved useful. Ruby exploded when it was married with the Rails framework -- the combo made it simple to tie a sophisticated front end to a database with merely a few lines of code.

Python, meanwhile, found its own fan club in the sciences. It is now used frequently in labs everywhere. And with statistical analysis breaking out in every corner of the corporate world, pointy-headed Python is gaining steam with the data science labs of the business realm.

Will the next generation be drawn in by the simplicity of Python framing the code with whitespace? Will Ruby expand beyond Rails? Are Python's built-in functions a better bet than Ruby's blocks? Is it cooler to align yourself with the scientists or the Web hackers? Maybe the battle lines have already hardened for all time, with the Web gurus sticking to their Rails guns and the scientists cloistered up in Python's libraries.

Dev tech battle No. 5: SQL vs. NoSQL
On one side of the aisle are the databases that your grandparents used. The data falls nicely into tables and the database will execute exotic queries to match together the tables and find the right rows. On the other side are the NoSQL upstarts, which make grand promises about speed and parallelism, with the little caveat that every once in a while things might go south and the database will send back wrong or inconsistent answers.


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